Madonna’s age looms large over her latest album, MDNA. At 53, she has remained relevant (despite protests from her critics to the contrary) in the world of entertainment where celebrities are edged out before you can say “Miley.”
However, on the album, her age does not matter in the wake of the ageist responses that surrounded her Super Bowl performance, which expressed bewilderment that she’s still dancing and singing pop music. No, her three decades in the pop music gives the album a sense of heft. She brings her psyche in all its perfections to MDNA, a pop album willing to try anything and get away with it — something that could only be accomplished by a woman who’s seen and just about done it all.
With that, MDNA has a number of references to Madonna’s vault of past hits, like “Lucky Star” or the lightweight first single “Gimme All Your Luvin.” But musically, the album is tailor-made for the pop music of now. Benny Benassi, Martin Solveig and William Orbit, who produced her critically acclaimed Ray of Light over a decade ago, contributed to the album.
Thumping bass and whirling Ibiza electrobeats pulsate on the second single “Girl Gone World” over a monosyllable-heavy chorus (He-ey, -ey, -ey) while the synths swirl to a bouncy, soaring melody on “Turn Up on the Radio.” These songs, along with a handful of others, are produced for maximum radio impact, the kind of songs Madonna has successfully made since 1983’s “Holiday.”
But they feel derivative, from the dubstep breakdowns to rap guest appearances, a grasp for an inch of space in a time when Katy Perry rules supreme. Only “Gang Bang” in its shrouding, dark beats and provocative lyrics about murder scintillates and surprises listeners.
The Orbit-produced second half of MDNA is when the album finally transforms itself into something a bit more profound without losing its pop sensibilities. Her divorce from director Guy Ritchie permeates the songs.
On “Love Spent,” against jumbling Eastern strings and winding electronic blips, she wonders, “I guess if I was your treasury, you’d have the time to treasure me,” a reference to the millions Ritchie received after the divorce. Her reflections are the messy thoughts of a single mom (who just happens to be a celebrity and millionaire). Album highlight “Falling Free” clears away the dance floor and puts away the autotune for soaring strings as Madonna sings, “When I let loose the need to know, I’m free to go.”
Throughout her thirty-year career, Madonna has realized the power of pop music to reveal or evoke. She doesn’t forget that on MDNA, utilizing the dance floor as her confessional once more.
Madonna's "Gimme All Your Luvin'" Official Video
Editor's Note: This video contains explicit content.
Printed on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 as: 'MDNA' proves Madonna's relevance